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HHS adds $500K toward opioid crises

Narcan is used to treat known or suspected opioid overdoses. (Image via Facebook)

HOLLYWOOD – The Seminole Tribe’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS) was recently awarded a $500,000 grant to address the harms caused by misuse of opioids. The funds are part of the tribal opioid response (TOR) grants administered by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The TOR program assists tribal communities by increasing access to U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder, and to support prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. The program also provides support for stimulant misuse and use disorders, including for cocaine and methamphetamine.

HHS executive director Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley said the award is the latest in a line of TOR funding that the tribe regularly receives through its Center for Behavioral Health (CBH). However, she said the award is usually $400,000, making this year’s funding $100,000 higher than normal.

“It’s $500,000 over a two-year period. It’s used to fight opioid abuse and is for opioid response – to provide Narcan distribution,” Kiswani-Barley said. “Opioid abuse has significantly increased everywhere; it’s not unique to the tribe.”

Narcan is a medicine that typically comes in a nasal spray or injectable form that is used to treat a known or suspected opioid overdose emergency. Common types of opioids are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, methadone and fentanyl.

Kiswani-Barley said tribal members with opioid issues are sometimes seen through a tribal clinic, but are more commonly seen through CBH – whether it’s due to prescription misuse or recreational use.

Meanwhile, the tribe’s Covid-19 numbers continue to rise and fall, but Kiswani-Barley said HHS has a “good handle on it.” She said, however, that as tribal members have begun to return to more normal routines of doctor and clinic visits, HHS has seen an increase in new diabetics, people with hypertension and obesity.

In addition, Kiswani-Barley said that flu season has arrived and the tribe will offer the vaccine to those six months and older. Elders who are 65 and older will receive a higher dose.

For more information, call the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at